Hockey’s Back in the Desert: Las Vegas Golden Knights


Patrick Keene

Many hockey fans said that hockey would never survive in the desert. The Phoenix Coyotes proved them wrong.

Many hockey fans said that a West Coast hockey team would never win the Stanley Cup. The Colorado Avalanche proved them wrong.

And now, those same hockey fans are saying that a team based in Las Vegas will be destined for a legacy full of distress and torment. The Vegas Golden Knights are here to prove those “fans” wrong.

Las Vegas was first introduced to ice hockey back in 1968 when a minor league team called the Las Vegas Gamblers took ice at the International Ice Palace. The Gamblers were wildly unsuccessful, and for the next four decades, ice hockey in Las Vegas struggled to survive. The Gamblers only managed to compete for three seasons, and no team in Las Vegas has lasted longer than the Las Vegas Wranglers ten season stint from 2003-2014. With paltry ticket sales and nearly absent TV viewership, ice hockey was written off as impossible in Nevada. Until, in 2014, the NHL announced that a possible expansion franchise could take the ice as early as the 2017-2018 hockey season.

There were two cities in immediate contention, Las Vegas and Quebec, were both desperate for hockey in their city. Quebec, while providing a more dedicated hockey fan base, did not have the financial resources necessary to put a bid in for the expansion team nor did they have the money for a new stadium. It was then announced on June 21st, 2016, at the NHL Awards Ceremony that Las Vegas would be receiving the first expansion team since 2000, soon to be know as the Golden Knights.

Today, with the NHL season only a few months away, expectations are high for the Golden Knights. During the expansion draft, in which the team actually becomes a team, there were many high profile and talented players taken in by the Golden Knights. Most of the team comes with playoff experience and a few have even hoisted the Stanley Cup. When the Florida Panthers expanded back in 1993, it only took the team four years to reach the Stanley Cup Championship. Notable picks from the draft include former Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and former Nashville Predators winger James Neal. They showed that a new team could be competitive and actually stand a chance against established teams. Hopefully, the Golden Knights will be able to emulate the Panthers success within the next few years.

Currently, the Golden Knights aren’t projected to do too well, and that’s understandable. The team is arbitrarily comprised of rookies and veterans, both groups unsure of how the team will perform in its inaugural season. Team chemistry is relatively low but morale is high. The players have lofty goals, including playoffs and the Stanley Cup.

The Golden Knights are in prime position to have long term success. We’re excited to say that for the first time in decades, hockey’s back in the desert.